Written By John White
The home of Ireland’s No.1 Reds
A look back in history by the author of 17 books about his beloved Manchester United. When red replaced green and gold, the end of one club but then brought back to life, United forever.
It was exactly 117 years ago today, 1 September 19o2, when Manchester United played their first ever game and pulled on their world famous red shirts for the first time in the club’s history.
The 1901-02 season was to be a historic one for Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Football Club as it would cease to exist five days after it played its final league game of the season. In January 1902, the club’s crippling debts amounted to £2,670 and a number of creditors pressed for payment. Not for the first time the club was staring bankruptcy in the face.
One of these creditors was the club’s President William Healey who when he was a director sponsored a cup in his name. Healey was one of the club’s principal creditors and had a winding-up order issued by the court against Newton Heath for the sum of £242, 17s and 10d which was a considerable amount of money in the early part of the 20th century.
The club simply did not have the money to pay Healey and so they were declared bankrupt.
The Manchester Evening News reported:
“There was no question of extinction. It is certain that when the immediate stress of financial resources has been removed, a big effort will be made to put the club on a much sounder basis than it has been for the past two years.”
The bailiffs were called in and took possession of the club office and contents.
When the Official receiver locked the gates to Bank Street prior to the team’s next home game, Harry Stafford decided to call in John H. Davies promise to help. Immediately the two men set about reviving the club’s fortunes. Stafford, a former boiler-maker, raised enough money to pay for the team’s railway fare to their next game away at Bristol City on 18 January 1902 (lost 4-0). Davies and Stafford even managed to find an interim ground to play home games at and secured a pitch at Harpurhey where the Reserves faced Padiham on 25 January 1902.
However, the club’s precarious financial position led to a meeting of the club’s shareholders was held at Islington Town Hall, Ancoats, Manchester on 18 March 1902. Those in attendance at the meeting were informed by Harry Stafford that he knew of four local businessmen, Mr. John H, Davies, Mr. J. Brown, Mr. Jones and Mr. Taylor, who were each prepared to put up the sum of £500 to guarantee the existence of the club in return for them taking control.
Newton Heath’s existing Board of Directors agreed to the takeover. Mr. F. Palmer, President of the shareholders, announced that the Football Association had given their blessing to the reformation of the club under a different name. For once in a very long time things were starting to brighten up for the ailing club which just four months earlier faced oblivion.
On 23 April 1902, Newton Heath beat Chesterfield 2-0 at home in Division Two and finished 15th in the table, their last ever league game as Newton Heath F.C. Three days later, The Heathens beat Manchester City 2-1 in the Manchester F.A. Senior Cup Final which was the club’s last ever game under the Newton Heath banner. The club’s last ever FA Cup game as Newton Heath saw them lose 2-1 to Lincoln City at home in Round 1 on 1 December 1901.
On 28 April 1902, the most important meeting in the history of the club took place and at this gathering it was agreed to form a new club. Those at the meeting were invited to suggest a new name for the club and “Manchester Celtic” and “Manchester Central” were both suggested.
Manchester Celtic was rejected as it might be seen to be favouring one side of the city, Manchester had a huge Irish population at the turn of the 20th century including a part of the city named “Little Ireland.”
Manchester Central was rejected as a nearby train station was called “Manchester Central Railway Station.”
In the end it was Louis Rocca, who would later serve United as a scout under Matt Busby, suggested the name of Manchester United. Rocca’s suggestion was unanimously accepted and Manchester United Football Club was formed. The team’s new colours would be red jerseys and white shorts. In May 1902, the Lancashire Football Association approved the name change.
So five days before the start of the 1902-03 season, the newly formed Manchester United played Preston North End in a friendly on 1 September 1902.
The above is taken from my book;
“Irish Devils: The Official Story of Manchester United and the Irish.”
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